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Texas Longhorns RBs think tempo will help physical rushing attack

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Let's see a show of hands. Who wants to tackle D'Onta Foreman or Chris Warren after the Longhorns just ran three running plays in 30 seconds?

Texas running back D'Onta Foreman at practice
Texas running back D'Onta Foreman at practice
via @CoachBedfordUT

There's still a remarkable misconception that Air Raid offenses can't be physical and run the football. There's still a remarkable misconception that the Art Briles offense the Texas Longhorns will run in 2015 under coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and run game coordinator Matt Mattox is an Air Raid offense. It's not, and it will be physical and the tempo will help that.

After all, what's the point of spreading teams sideline to sideline and then vertically down the field if there aren't plays to take advantage of light boxes? The emphasis on run-pass options means that when defenses show those light boxes, all the quarterback has to do on many plays is read the defense and make the proper decision by handing the ball off.

What's the point of wearing at defenses with tempo if running plays don't take advantage of a talented young offensive line and two bruising running backs that weigh 238 pounds and 255 pounds, respectively?

So make no mistake, Gilbert and Mattox will field a physical offense this season and running backs D'Onta Foreman, a junior, and Chris Warren, a sophomore, will be a big part of it, ready to take advantage of that tempo.

"I think it brings a different dynamic to the tempo offense," Warren said of the rushing attack. "In having a bigger back in an up-tempo offense, if you decide to run the ball two or three times in a row, going that fast, over time, that's probably going to drain [the defense] a lot faster than normal depending on how that game will go. I just feel like it would give us more opportunities to make bigger plays and greatly intensify the play action."

Not many linebackers or defensive backs will be interested in tackling Warren or Foreman in the hole or the open field. After a handful of runs or on the 80th play of the game? Even less likely. So Foreman says the Longhorns have to be a power team and it starts with the running backs.

"In our group, the running backs, we talk about being the ones that get everything going," Foreman said. "We have to have that mentality. When we go on the field we have to pass block well. We have to run the ball well. We have to make sure we get the calls into who we need to get the calls into. I feel like everything starts with us, honestly."

According to head coach Charlie Strong, that's because the running backs are the most talented position group on the team. Just don't ask Warren to brag about that praise.

"I feel like we do our fair share of work," Warren said. "I know our DBs are very good and our receivers have some playmakers in there. Our quarterbacks are great and I know our o-line is coming together very well. I know our d-line is consistently pretty good. So I think that we all do our respective work."

Last year, Foreman's work resulted in 7.2 yards per carry, a run of 81 yards against Oklahoma to seal the game, and a 93-yard touchdown against Kansas. The explosive effort against the Sooners was the longest run ever by any Longhorns player in that noted rivalry and the burst down the sideline against the Jayhawks was the longest 2015 run in the Big 12, the sixth-longest in the nation, and the third-longest in Longhorns history.

Consider that upside and then consider that Foreman is in even better shape now than he was last season and will receive more opportunities behind an offensive line that should improve. Against defenses that will be more tired.

Consider that Warren weighed 20 pounds less when he ran through virtually the entire Texas Tech defense last Thanksgiving for a 91-yard touchdown and finished 276 yards that day, the highest rushing total in the Big 12 in 2015 and the third-highest rushing total in the nation. It was also a freshman record for Texas and may only be a hint of what Warren can accomplish after an offseason in the weight room. A rare offseason in the weight room.

"I hadn't lifted before coming into college, so it was really my only time actually lifting," Warren said. "I've never really had an offseason either. I've always done a different sport. Coming into this offseason, I just wanted to make sure that I could stay healthy and make sure that I could also bring myself up to being able -- consistently -- be there to play. But that's pretty much it really."

So set aside concerns about him carrying bad weight or even losing any explosiveness. And hope that increased durability will help him avoid the ankle injuries that cost him time and effectiveness as a freshman.

Both players also have some speed, though -- they aren't just bruisers, as Foreman has reported 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash and Warren has run a verified 4.62 40-yard dash and 10.73 100m.

Put all those factors together and Foreman and Warren look like the type of 1-2 punch that has the potential to steamroll some defenders this fall, aided by the tempo. And then outrun tired defenders to the end zone.